Top 10 Metal Detecting Finds 2020
Due to the length of time that it takes for Treasure to be investigated and recorded, the exact number of discoveries in 2020 is not yet known. But with figures continually rising over the last few years and well over 1000 hauls already recorded by the British Museum, we already know it has been a good year!
With the country showing an increasing interest in Metal Detecting and with lots of us having had a lot more time on our hands during lockdown, it’s no real surprise that 2020 has been a year of even more Treasure finds of significance. So we thought we’d bring to you a list of 10 of the most interesting and valuable discoveries that we have heard of- and we’d love to hear what you think of them too!
The second largest Civil War hoard found ever, was discovered in Suffolk
Luke Mahoney found this hoard of silver treasure using his Minelab Equinox 800 detector in July 2020. Alongside his friends Daniel Hunt and Matt Brown, Mahoney had obtained permission from the landowners, Charlie and James Buckle to search the field behind the Lindsey Rose pub, Lindsey.
The lucky detectorists manage to unearth a staggering 1,069 post-medieval silver coins with the help of excavation teams from the council's Suffolk Finds Recording Team. The majority of the coins, 622 of them, were contained in one vessel, with the rest of them found spread around in the topsoil.
Luke Mahoney with some of his treasure hoard outside the Lindsey Rose Pub.
The 17th century silver coins were minted in the civil war, dating from 1644 and 1645, at a time when hoarding coins was commonplace due to the instability of the country at the time. Whilst the coins are from a range of rulers, including Edward VI and Charles I, they are likely to have been deposited in a single event. They are all described as being silver halfcrown shillings and sixpences.
This incredible find is believed to be the second-largest find of it’s kind, with a hoard discovered in Ashdon, Essex the largest.
Suffolk Coroner's Court in Ipswich ruled the 1,069 silver coins, estimated to be worth £100,000, as treasure, meaning the Civil War find is now the property of the Crown.
There has been some dispute since the finding of this haul, as the finders believe there were 11 more coins that have gone missing since the discovery, but this is going to be further investigated by the police. Regardless of what the conclusion is though, we think this is an incredible find for Mahoney and friends, well done to all.
Hoard of Bronze Age artefacts, believed to be of National significance, was discovered in the Scottish Borders
Mariusz Stepien was searching in a field near Peebles, Scotland with some friends in June 2020, when he found a bronze object buried around half a metre underground. The lucky detectorist said that he realised very quickly that he had stumbled upon something pretty spectacular and that he had never seen anything quite like it before.
Following Stepien’s discovery of a complete horse harness and sword, the find was promptly reported to Treasure Trove and a 22 day long excavation by archaeologists from National Museums Scotland began. Mr Stepien and his friends camped in the field whilst this ensued. He said: "Every day there were new objects coming out which changed the context of the find, every day we learned something new.”
Mariusz Stepien in field in Peebles, Scotland, where he made this discovery.
The plethora of historical finds which appeared during this excavation included a complete horse harness and saddle believed to be around 3,000 years old, a sword still in its scabbard, decorated straps, buckles, rings, ornaments and chariot wheel axle caps. Incredibly the soil has preserved the leather and wood, allowing the experts to see for the first time how bronze Age horse harnesses were assembled.
These extraordinarily rare 3000 year old treasures have been taken to the National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh. They were likely deposited by a well-connected community, and even though they haven’t yet been given a monetary value, they are considered pieces of huge national importance.
This perplexing medieval ‘snail man’ badge was unearthed in Yorkshire
Among the more than 1,000 cases of treasure found last year was this silver badge, with a puzzling depiction of a praying knight emerging from a snail’s shell. After some thorough investigation it is believed that this may be a rare example of medieval satire!
Discovered in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, the silver-gilt mount is believed to have religious connotations and dates from somewhere between 1200 to 1350.
The object showing a man emerging from a snail shell on the back of a goat was found in West Yorkshire in 2020.
The Wakefield Museum hopes to acquire this unusual silver-gilt mount for it’s collection. It is at this point unclear if the object was definitely worn as a badge or whether it would have been once attached to a leather belt or strap.
Beverley Nenk, curator of later medieval collections at the British Museum, said:
"The image of the praying knight emerging from a snail shell atop a goat implies an element of parody or satire."
Snails are often depicted in the margins of medieval illuminated decorated manuscripts and are thought to symbolise cowardice, and this may be the intended meaning."
370-year-old gold and crystal ring unearthed on the Isle of Man
Metal detectorist Lee Morgan discovered this gold ring, which likely dates back to the English Civil War, in December 2020, on the southern side of the Isle of Man. It is believed that the ring may have been crafted in honor of a beheaded earl who lived during the English Civil War.
The slender gold band is 21.5 millimeters in diameter and is topped with a 12 mm crystal stone that covers two ornate letters (J and D) which have been made with gold thread. It was the discovery of these initials that led experts to wonder if the ring could have once belonged to James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby and Lord of Man, a supporter of the Royalist cause during the English Civil War, who signed his name J.Derby.
The ring is "of a high quality," indicating "that it was made for, or on behalf of, an individual of high status".
After closer inspections, archaeologists have dated the ring to the late 1600’s as well as identified it as a mourning ring, a type of jewelry that was sometimes given out at funerals to commemorate a person who had died, often holding their initials. The ring's two shoulders, on either side of the crystal, are decorated with inlaid black enamel, which is one of the stand out signs of a mourning ring from the Stuart period (1603-1714).
James Stanley's wife, Charlotte, Lady Derby, likely had the mourning ring made in his honour, after Parliamentarians executed him in October 1651.
Rare Bronze Age spear discovered on a Jersey beach
Jay Cornick, a Jersey-based metal detectorist and electrical engineer, found the spearhead near Gorey Harbour in Jersey in August 2020, before bringing it to independent trust Jersey Heritage to be recorded. It is believed that this interesting find is unique to the Channel Islands and a rare find in Britain.
Olga Finch, curator of archaeology at Jersey Heritage, said 'The spearhead is a really exciting find for Jersey – it is unique and very rare in terms of its large size and the fact that it is intact.’
The spearhead is made of copper and is 13 inches long, and the experts believe that it is more than 3000 years old. The 'rare and complete' spearhead, which still has remnants of the wooden shaft still attached, dates back to the late Bronze Age, somewhere between 1207 and 1004 BC. They believe that the reason it is so well preserved is due to protection from the air by the black sand from which it was pulled.
The spearhead is now on display in a new finds case at Jersey Museum & Art Gallery, which is in Saint Helier in the island's south.
Conservator Neil Mahrer sent the wood to York Archaeological Trust, who used carbon dating to approximate the date of the wood and therefore the artefact as a whole. They also discovered the wood used was field maple, commonly used in the Bronze Age. The spearhead was buried deep enough into the black, clayey sand (which doesn’t move with the tide) that it may have been there ever since it went in thousands of years ago!
Celtic Cheiftain's Chariot Brooch worth thousands found in Buckinghamshire
This unique object was found by Ray Pusey, who has been a metal detectorist for over 30 years, in his home county of Buckinghamshire in October 2020. The day he discovered it he had been searching for around an hour when he received a strong signal. He dug down about 8-10ins and discovered his ‘best find ever’.
This horse brooch is estimated to be around 2000 years old and it would probably have belonged to a wealthy Celtic chieftain. When it was auctioned off it was purchased by a private UK phone bidder for a whopping £55,000!
The brooch is roughly T-shaped and made from cast copper-alloy. The front is decorated with champlevé enamel - red glass - forming a flowing pattern of opposed scrolls with tips that curl like breaking waves. This brooch is also particularly exceptional not just because of how well it has been preserved but also because of it’s large size- 172mm x 128mm.
Charles Hanson, the auctioneer said “Horse brooches are thought to have been used with a blanket or caparison, a cloth covering for a horse. The brooch would have been pinned to the cloth to cover the junction between strap and fabric. Items like this are not only rare, they indicate high status. There are only a handful of known examples from Britain. The one we auctioned was exceptional, not only in its size but because of its state of preservation.”
South African Krugerrand gold coins found in Milton Keynes
Now this find didn’t constitute a treasure, as it didn’t meet the criteria of being made more than 300 years ago, BUT that didn’t stop it being a very exciting discovery for detectorists in Milton Keynes. The 50 solid gold South African Krugerrand coins that were minted in the 1970s during apartheid were dug up inthe detectorist’s garden during the first lockdown of 2020, and have prompted a discussion about the classifying requirements for future finds.
This archaeological find was one of more than 47,000 in England and Wales that was reported in 2020, and now the British government has said that they plan to broaden their definition of what constitutes a treasure so that more rare artifacts could be preserved for display in museums rather than sold to private collectors. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this discussion- do you think the current guidelines are correct or should the definition be broadened?
British Teen Detectorist Discovered 1,000-Year-Old Coin in Norfolk
Reece Pickering, aged just 17, was treasure hunting in August 2020 when he found one of just three surviving silver pennies dated to Harold II's reign. Coins minted during Harold’s reign are scarce, as the Anglo-Saxon king only ruled for nine months, and demand for them has increased considerably since the Battle of Hastings’ 950th anniversary in 2016.
“I wasn’t expecting to come across such a scarce and remarkable coin,” said Pickering in a statement about his find. “… I can’t imagine finding something as special as this again. You just never know what’s beneath your feet.”
Rhys Pickering’s Harold II silver penny is believed to be one of just three known to survive today, and it is expected to sell for around £2,500 to £3,000! Not too shabby at all!
Second teen detectorist to discover a rare 1000 year old coin this summer!
What makes the previous find even more special, was that it wasn’t even the only one of it’s kind this summer! Just one month later, 16-year-old Walter Taylor, a keen detectorist since the age of just 4 years old, found an 1106 silver penny in a field in South Essex.
The Harold II coin from the previous story (top left) and the Henry I coin found by Walter Taylor (bottom right).
Lucky Taylor found the silver penny which depicts Henry I—William’s youngest son—pointing at a comet, after a long period with no discoveries. He said “I was constantly digging … but finding nothing. Then the register on my detector rose from 26 to 76. The coin was buried about four inches deep in the ground. I thought it was a silver penny but when I swiped the mud off it, I saw a face staring at me.”
Henry would have had the coin minted following his victory over his older brother, Robert Curthose, at Tinchebrai in 1106. The penny is expected to sell for even more than the first one found, estimated to be worth around £3,000 to £3,500, with the profits to be shared equally with the landowner.
Roman furniture fitting found in Hampshire
This copper-alloy Roman furniture fitting, dating from around AD 43-200, was found by a detectorist in Old Basing, Hampshire on the 2nd September 2020. It is currently being held in the British Museum and is not being classified as a treasure find, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting!
It is believed that this object could perhaps be from a large item of furniture or some other household fitting. It is decorated with what experts describe as the "remarkably well-preserved face" of the god Oceanus and includes "intricate" seaweed fronds framing the god's face, beard and moustache. Associated with this object was a bent copper alloy plate, which may represent a locking plate or a mounting plate.
Archaeological investigation of the findspot by Prof. Mike Fulford of the University of Reading has concluded that the find was deposited beneath a cobbled floor, probably within a building as a specially placed deposit.